Notion Ink Adam IIReports on and later picked up on Engadget and elsewhere have outed the Notion Ink Adam II Android tablet, successor device to the much-hyped Adam device produced by India’s Notion Ink Design Labs, and apparently supported by the Indian Department of Science & Technology Technology Business Incubators program. Documents indicate a reasonably specced and very price-competitive tablet, but one without the Pixel Qi screen that was the key differentiator for the prior model.

Notion Ink’s original Adam design engendered considerable pre-launch interest because of the promise of a daylight-readable display that could switch back any time to regular mode. Sadly, the device was both late to arrive and disappointing when it did, and the Pixel Qi display was relegated to simply an optional extra.

In some quarters, that trajectory of hype and letdown became almost proverbial. In the Adam II, the relegation goes still further, and the E Ink component is reduced to a thin ribbon running down the spine of the device, like a magazine spine, where notifications can scroll, capitalizing on Android Jelly Bean’s excellent notifications features. This is certainly fun to have, but the device, and the company, are clearly now winding back the former unique selling point to the level of a gimmick.

What the whole debacle points to is how fast and furiously the tablet market has been evolving. John Biggs’s predictions c.2010 caught this just right. With Amazon, Google, Apple and Microsoft racing to leapfrog each other, consumer and mobile device manufacture is being brutally commoditized, and the only sensible way for a startup bit player to build a defensible proposition is to target a genuinely interesting niche segment, like Ouya, or develop some upstream technology like electrowetting displays.

What suicidal entrepreneur would launch a daylight-readable device when Amazon has just bought Liquavista? And for that matter, what government agency would be misguided enough to back said entrepreneur … ?

Still, the Adam II may be worth looking at. A 10.1” 1280 x 800 pixel 16:10 screen is obviously well up in the resolution as well as the size stakes, not counting external HDMI options. Hints on the Notion Ink website emphasize the display quality, viewing angles, etc. If the price point holds in other markets, and if the screen turns out to be reasonably good quality up close, then this will be a highly competitive offering at the rumoured $217. But there is no pretending that the E Ink strip on the spine constitutes the game changer that the original Adam was aiming to be.

Wait for version III, perhaps?


About the Reviewer: Paul St John Mackintosh’s own first poetry collection, The Golden Age, is available on Kindle here.


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